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Going for gold under the cloud of COVID-19 makes the Tokyo Summer Games an Olympics like no other. This newsletter is here to help you make sense of it all, with original stories from Globe reporters in Canada and Tokyo, tracking Team Canada’s medal wins, and past Olympic moments from iconic performances. Tokyo Olympics Update is sent every Friday in June and July and twice daily during the Games, which run from July 23 to Aug. 8. You can sign up here. Let us know what you think by emailing

Good afternoon, here’s the latest Olympic news:

Framing an international spectacle during a global crisis

A general view shows the Olympic rings lit up at dusk on the Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo on May 31, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)


The Olympics are conventionally treated as an exercise in national pride, two weeks during which politics and world events are expected to be set aside in a coming-together of countries.

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CBC’s Olympic programming team is sensitively aware that the Summer Games will be anything but, coming at a time when most countries will likely be facing far worse misery than Canada from COVID-19. Over the past few months, there have been intense conversations surrounding an important and largely unanswered question: how will CBC produce a TV spectacle that remains attentive to the ongoing global pandemic?

“I think that it’s fair to say that our executive producers of the coverage are conscious of the state of the country, the state of the world and they are going to read the room with our coverage,” Chris Wilson, executive director of CBC Sports, told The Globe’s Simon Houpt.

Producers won’t know precisely what tone CBC will strike until an intense preproduction period begins and rehearsals take stage in early July. The period will also be a process of linking its 140 staff in Tokyo – about half the usual allotment on the ground – to its Canadian studios as it strides forward with its Olympic plans.

How Team Canada is shaping up

The Tokyo Games are 42 days away. Here’s how Team Canada is looking.

  • 120 athletes have guaranteed spots on Team Canada with a slew of others coming. 314 athletes represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Games, where it won four gold medals.
  • Andy Anderson drives around in an old ambulance that he uses as a camper, performs a trick that is a tribute to a U.S. coach, and challenges the old-school idea that wearing a helmet in the sport is uncool. And, Rachel Brady writes, he’ll be representing Canada when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut this summer.
  • Canada’s Olympic marathon team is set after a competitive qualifying period: Natasha Wodak, Malindi Elmore, Cam Levins and Ben Preisner were selected last Friday to join 2019 national champions Dayna Pidhoresky and Trevor Hofbauer. The marathon, one of the final competitions of the Games, will be run more than 1,000 kilometres north of Tokyo in Sapporo to avoid the summer heat.
  • Jessica Klimkait is the latest Canadian to secure an Olympic spot after winning gold at the world judo championships. Meanwhile, high jumper Derek Drouin, one of Canada’s four gold medalists at the Rio Games, is gunning for Tokyo after a double stress fracture in his spine, a herniated disc and three separate Achilles tears, all since the 2016 Games.
  • Some have already been eliminated from contention: The Canadian men’s soccer team fell short of its Olympic bid in March and Canada’s men’s baseball team is out after going 0-3 at the Baseball Americas Qualifiers.

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In Tokyo: Crowds for locals, GPS tracking for the media

With “no talk” of a further postponement or cancellation according to Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, the conversation has shifted toward vaccines. Muto spoke to the possibility of seeking further vaccine shots on Tuesday, with the focus on securing more doses for “Olympic-related staff,” who are expected to start getting immunized by mid-June.

Foreign media, who aren’t required to be vaccinated en masse by the Games, will be monitored by organizers using smartphone GPS tracking and kept track of to ensure they stay in preregistered areas such as hotels and sport venues.

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Japan has also seen a shift in messaging on crowds in recent days, with the country reportedly leaning toward allowing domestic spectators to the Games according to local media. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said a month ago that the Olympics needed to be held in empty stadiums.

In Canada, Olympians are growing frustrated with border restrictions after the federal government announced it was issuing a travel exemption for NHL players going across the U.S. border for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The lack of an exemption for other athletes means Olympians, such as 800-metre competitor Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, who travelled to the United States to hit the Olympic standard, have to interrupt their training cycles for two weeks when they return home.

Olympic moment

Simon Whitfield after winning the gold medal in the triathlon at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.


Sept. 17, 2000: Simon Whitfield recovers from mid-race cycling crash to win triathlon gold

Before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Simon Whitfield drove to training sessions in a beat-up car missing its back window. After the Games, he’d see his face on Cheerios boxes at the grocery store.

Whitfield entered the Games – the first Olympics to feature the triathlon – on the heels of a second-place finish to a gold-medal favourite. But getting out of the 1,500-metre swim, the Kingston, Ont., athlete sat 30 places behind first and, midway through the 40-kilometre cycle, got caught in the thick of a multibike accident. Recovering quickly, Whitfield got off the bike in 24th place, just over a minute behind first place. Slowly closing the gap over the 10-kilometre final running leg, the Canadian passed the slowing leader with less than 400 metres remaining. Racing beside the iconic Sydney Opera House, Whitfield leaped through the finishing tape 13.5 seconds ahead of second – his 30:53.73 run by far the fastest in the field – to give Canada its first gold of the Games.

The performance by the 25-year-old, seen sobbing at the medal ceremony as the Canadian flag was raised, captured the heart of Canadians and propelled him to prolonged stardom on the Canadian athletics scene. At the 2012 London Olympics, his last, he was chosen Canada’s flagbearer at the opening ceremonies.

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Is there a Canadian Olympic moment you can’t seem to forget? If you do, email us at and tell us why.

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